Everyone on this earth has heard of the great Indian epic poetry, ‘Mahabharata’. While some think that it was a fruit of imagination, some say it was real. The validity of this cannot be ascertained but what can be said with certainty is that the era was real and a war that inspired the epic poetry did take place. However, the true nature or scale of the war is certainly not known and there is no way to know the truth. So, based on whatever evidence is available, we will prefer to believe that the war as described in Mahabharata was real. This post is not about the war but about the kingdom that was involved in the war – the Kuru Kingdom. In this post we will learn 25 interesting Kuru Kingdom facts that thrived during the ancient times.
Kuru Kingdom Facts: 1-10
1. The Kuru Kingdom was actually an Aryan tribal union of Vedic age during the Iron Age period of India.
2. The kingdom thrived during the Middle Vedic Period (circa 1200 BCE – circa 850 BCE). The kingdom was located in northern India.
3. The Kuru Kingdom was the first ever state-level society that was recorded around 1000 BCE in South Asia.
4. The early Vedic Period went through a complete overhaul in the hands of Kuru Kingdom. The Vedic hymns were arranged into collection and new rituals were born. These rituals became known as the Srauta rituals. The Srauta rituals laid the foundations of what we know as Hindu-Synthesis or Classical Synthesis.
5. The Kuru Kingdom remained in power for nearly 450 years. During the Middle Vedic Period, the kingdom remained the center of culture and politics.
6. The kingdom’s power was at its height during the reigns of King Parikshit and King Janamejaya.
7. The importance of Kuru Kingdom declined significantly during the Late Vedic Period which lasted between c. 850 BCE and c. 500 BCE.
8. During the Late Vedic Period, the Mahajanapada Period significantly overshadowed the Kuru Kingdom but the legends of traditions of the Kuru Kingdom survived through time and continued into the post-Vedic era when the epic poetry ‘Mahabharata’ was composed.
9. The Rigveda prominently mentions the Kurus. The Kurus were described in Rigveda as early Indo-Aryans who ruled over modern Haryana (earlier what was Eastern Punjab) and Ganga-Jamuna Doab.
10. In the later Vedic Period however, the focus shifted to Ganga-Jamuna Doab from earlier Eastern Punjab. Painted Grey Ware settlements gradually increased in both numbers and size.
Kuru Kingdom Facts: 11-20
11. These Painted Grey Ware settlements increased significantly in areas of Kaushambi and Hastinapur during the end of Later Vedic Period and the settlements gradually took the shape of towns.
12. The alliance between Puru and Bharata tribes led to the birth of Kuru tribe in Middle Vedic Period and Kurukshetra became their center of power.
13. The first Kuru capital was Āsandīvat which in modern day is Haryana’s Assandh. Later, Hastinapur and Indraprastha became the major cities of the Kurus and Hastinapur became their capital.
14. Atharvaveda praises the Kuru King Parikshit as a great ruler while Shatapatha Brahmana – a Late Vedic text praises his son Janamejaya as a great conqueror who performed horse sacrifice known as Ashvamedha.
15. Not very clear, it is believed that later the Kurus were defeated by the Salvas – a non-Vedic tribe and the Kurus were dispersed from Kuruksherta and as a result, the Vedic culture shifted its center to Uttar Pradesh’s Panchala realm. This defeat of the Kurus resulted in the decline of the Kurus and in Later Vedic Period, the Kurus shifted their capital to Kaushambi. This shift in capital was also because Hastinapur was destroyed by a flood. Another factor that resulted in this shift was upheavals in Kuru family.
16. In Late Vedic Period (c. 600 BCE) the Kuru Dynasty broke into branches and evolved into Kurus and Vasta janapadas. The Kurus ruled over the Upper Doab and the Vasta janapadas ruled over the Lower Doab. The Vasta janapadas further broke down into branches at Mathura and Kaushambi.
17. As far as the society in Kuru Kingdom was concerned, it was characterized by barley and rice settled farming, surplus production and specialized craftsmanship and artisanship.
18. The Atharvaveda is a text from the Kura era and Atharvaveda first mentions śyāma ayas (black metal) or iron.
19. It was during the Kuru Kingdom’s rule that the class system or varna system emerged that continues till date. The society was broken down into Brahmin (priesthood), Kshatriya (aristocracy), Vaishya and Shudra (the lowly non-Aryans). Brahmins and Kshatriyas dominated Vaishyas and Shudras.
20. It is worth mentioning that it was during the Kuru Kingdom that class was determined by birth. Prior to that in Early Vedic Period, class system did exist but just in form of idealized meta groups based on the work performed by people and it was not determined by birth. There was no discrimination whatsoever in Shudras hearing sacred Vedic words and participating in religious rituals.
Kuru Kingdom Facts: 21-25
21. The style of ruling using by the Kuru kings was rudimentary. Chaplain (purohit), village headman, food distributor, army chief, spies, heralds and emissary were the basic structures of administration. Frequent raids on neighboring kings was common.
22. The now orthodox Srauta rituals were developed for strengthening class hierarchy and upholding social order.
23. Elaborate sacrifices and rituals were performed only by high-ranked nobles and these rituals eventually elevated the status of a king over the subjects.
24. Powerful kings would often perform horse sacrifice or Ashvamedha to prove his domination over northern India.
25. The epic poem Mahabharata tells the story of the conflict between Pandavas and Kauravas – the two Kuru branches of the ruling Kuru clan. Parikshit and Janamejaya are depicted as scions of Kuru clan in the Mahabharata.